Pop music survives by taking influences from different, often more credible genres and moulding them together to form new songs, with their own unique twist. Applying this to Purity Ring means that they can truly be seen as future pop (as they describe themselves), as on their full length debut they successfully blend many current trends in hip-hop and electronic music to create what is, often, a perfectly crafted album. Although sometimes lacklustre, ‘Shrines’ is a well-produced and consistently good effort that is proof that this duo can live up to the considerable hype their early work attracted.
The album is at its strongest when there is a seamless flow between the vocals of singer Megan James and the instrumentals behind them. This is most evident on tracks such as ‘Fineshrine’, which builds up slowly, until by the end the final drop sounds better than anything you’d hear at a Dubstep night. Although there are huge differences between this album and Skrillex-style wobble, the influence of the now unavoidable genre is clear, particularly on ‘Cartographist’, which uses an understated bassline to complement the often dark lyrics sung. ‘Amenamy’ continues this, at times Gothic, theme with the vocals stating that ‘thy nervous blood will be undone’. This fits in well with the already familiar single ‘Obedear’, with its almost mysterious feel, and which isn’t a stand-out track only because of the overall strength of the album.
However, the efforts of the duo come together best on ‘Grandloves’. The song is complemented by the introduction of the sample from band Young Magic, which, although having a significant impact, isn’t over-used. This new voice performing a duet with James manages to be to be emotive without going over the top, and as the voice of each singer becomes more and more filtered they blend into the instrumental before being brought back in full, creating the most atmospheric moment on the album.
Despite the generally high standard however, there are moments that seem half hearted. The final track, ‘Shuck’, is one of the few examples where the album veers to the side of too minimal, leading to an anti-climactic finish, odd for a band which the rest of the time has proved they know how to build up feeling and emotion in their songs. Furthermore, some tracks would benefit from more of an emphasised chorus, in order to add contrast and keep them interesting.
Although it may have its (rare) faults, there’s no doubting that ‘Shrines’ is a great debut, and Purity Ring have managed to strike the balance between ambiance and movement in their songs successfully, leading to what is likely to be one of the strongest electronic albums of 2012. The album is unusual as it actually works better as a whole rather than as a collection of individual songs, and this only makes it a bigger achievement to have made, as well as a better overall listen.